In September, the shocking seems expected. The unprecedented feels all too familiar.
Another year, and the San Diego Chargers are off to another slow start, this one courtesy of five turnovers and their latest historical special teams collapse in a 27-20 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
The Chargers dropped to 1-2, their third losing September record in four years under coach Norv Turner, and this season's struggles have played out like a broken record.
Over and over, the special teams units have looked incapable of coverage. Seahawks returner Leon Washington was the latest beneficiary.
The former New York Jet returned kickoffs for 101 and 99 yards in the second half, building too large a deficit for Philip Rivers and the Chargers to overcome despite a promising comeback effort.
Washington's 101-yard return built a 17-0 lead at the start of the second half and set a record for longest return in Seahawks franchise history. Two weeks earlier, the Chargers allowed the Chiefs to have their longest punt return in team history.
Washington nearly had another touchdown return but lost his footing.
“Obviously, we've got to cover kicks,” Turner said in the post-game press conference. “We have some young guys in there, some guys who have not been as consistent as we need to be, and obviously it's something we've got to address immediately and do whatever we have to do personnel-wise to make sure we can cover kicks.”
The Chargers have made a habit of overcoming slow starts in September to still qualify for the playoffs in January. With the way their offense and defense played, there is hope for a similar storyline this season.
Rivers set a franchise record with 455 passing yards to go with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The first pick came on a deflection off a diving Antonio Gates' hands, and the second was on the team's final play from scrimmage on a desperation fourth-and-15 attempt in the red zone.
The defense held the Seahawks to just 26 yards in the second half with one first down on 17 plays while also registering a safety off a Brandon Siler sack. The linebacker unit was shorthanded with Stephen Cooper (knee), Larry English (foot) and Jyles Tucker all inactive and Shawne Merriman (calf) forced to leave the game early.
“To make it as simple as I can, five turnovers... and two special teams touchdowns, that's a recipe for a loss," Rivers said. "And all that being said, we had a chance to win. We made a lot of plays, but we didn't make quite enough.”
The Chargers lost three fumbles in the first half. Legedu Naanee fumbled on the first drive, Mike Tolbert fumbled at the Seahawks' 7-yard line, and Darren Sproles fumbled on a kickoff return at the close of the second quarter.
“It's simple,” Buster Davis said. “Just work on ball security and cover kicks.”